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Mapping Chicago's Vacant Buildings

Published on Oct 11, 2011 by Derek Eder | Category: opengov

There are more than 14,000 reports of vacant and abandoned buildings in Chicago. Where are they? What is their status? Who is responsible? I created a building finder that explores the data retrieved from the City of Chicago and attempts to answer these questions.

Vacant and abandoned buildings are a hot topic in Chicago, but it doesn't seem like much is really being done about them. Since Rahm Emanuel came in to office, however, the city has been on a bit of an open data kick, and calls to 311 regarding vacant buildings were among one of the many datasets it's released.

Vacant building data sounded interesting to me, so I downloaded it and threw it in to Google's Fusion Tables. Quickly, I realized: this data belongs on a map, and it needs to be easy to use and accessible to everyone. ChicagoBuildings.org is the result.

Every call made to 311 since January 2010 regarding vacant and abandoned buildings can be viewed on this map. Buildings can be filtered by location, date reported, if they are open and unsecured, have fire damage, or are in use by non-residents (gangs, children, homeless, etc.). Furthermore, the data is updated nightly by the city, and in turn, updated on this site by a script I wrote. This means that buildings that are reported today will show up on the map tomorrow. Also, while doing research on the city and county, I wrote an extensive FAQ on how vacant and abandoned buildings are handled and what laws are in place regarding them.

The site was built with HTML, CSS, Javascript and Google's Fusion Tables and Maps API. If you are interested, all the code for this project and the synchronization script is up on github. If you are interested in making your own map like this one, check out my Searchable Map Template.

Check out ChicagoBuildings.org.

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